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City Council mulls making more meetings visible, revisits Edison issues

La Cañada  Flintridge City Hall
La Cañada Flintridge City Council members on Tuesday discussed making more special council meetings and commission meetings available to the public by streaming or broadcasting them.
(File Photo)

Hoping to make the civic process transparent to the public, the La Cañada Flintridge City Council is considering adjusting its policy to allow for the recording and broadcast of certain special council meetings and city commission meetings.

Council members discussed the matter in a regular meeting Tuesday at the earlier request of Mayor Pro Tem Greg Brown, who said he’d like to see more public access to meetings beyond the regular council meetings currently broadcast and streamed online.

“I definitely think we should be erring on the side of broadcasting rather than not,” Brown said Tuesday. “I’d be in favor of recording, if not live broadcasting, commission meetings. For me personally, as a council member, when we do get appeals … I’d rather see what was said and done, rather than reading the minutes.”

City Manager Mark Alexander explained regular City Council meetings have been shared over government access channels and live on the internet since 2001. Previous discussions around what to broadcast and where highlighted a few key cautions, he said.

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First, additional staff resources would be needed to record special meetings. There was also concern around individuals using civic “air time” to espouse views or speak on non-city-related purposes, and that some meetings, while public, might address sensitive issues better suited to council chambers than residents’ living rooms.

“That was a long time ago, and we’ve had 18 years of experience broadcasting City Council meetings,” Alexander said. “We haven’t had many people come and use the broadcast as a forum for expressing personal view. And we very rarely have issues that come up that would be sensitive such that we would not want to broadcast.”

Council members considered giving the mayor discretion to decide which special meetings would not be taped — once they learned special meetings include study session and workshops, even they were reluctant to broadcast all meetings — but ultimately decided it would be more prudent to define exceptions in the policy.

Councilwoman Terry Walker expressed disappointment an Aug. 6 study session on the county’s Devil’s Gate Dam sediment removal project was not broadcast, even though the city held the meeting to update and inform the public.

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“It was unfortunate. That was really a community service,” she said. “We want to make sure those kinds of things are getting aired.”

Alexander said he’d come back at a later meeting with some guidelines for members to review for a policy update.

Edison under fire for fire response, repeat outages

SCE will inspect all trees within 200 feet of its electric facilities and remove or prune trees that
Mayor Pro Tem Greg Brown questioned Southern California Edison’s fire abatement efforts after a heavily cleared area near his Vista Miguel Drive home caught fire on Aug. 9. Council members expressed an interest in revisiting the utility’s performance in the city.
(File photo)

Also Tuesday, council members expressed concern with Southern California Edison service, which has resulted in frequent outages in one part of town and what Mayor Pro Tem Greg Brown characterized as overzealous and possibly misguided fire abatement efforts.

After hearing a safety report incident from L.A. County Fire Assistant Chief Anderson Mackey Jr. about an Aug. 8 brush fire at 5259 Vista Miguel Drive, in which about one-eighth of an acre and three trees were burned in a blaze of an “undetermined cause,” Brown identified nearby power lines as a likely culprit.

He said four crews arrived on that street, where he resides, to clear brush within a six-week period. A fifth and sixth crew turned up, but all their collective attention missed a grove of eucalyptus trees growing into and around live power lines.

“The Edison project is out of control,” he said of the utility’s wildfire mitigation efforts. “It’s just one of those ironies I’d have six [crews] trying to trim the same trees, while the ones that really needed it got ignored.”

After discussing a neighborhood that’s reportedly experienced eight outages in a nine-month period, Councilman Jon Curtis asked whether the city could examine the utility’s progress on improvements promised after a city consultant formally delivered criticisms and recommendations pertaining to the city’s power grid.

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“I think it’s time to have that consultant come back,” Curtis said, requesting the matter be revisited at a future meeting.

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